3 Tips for Navigating Clients Through the Creative Native Ad Process
Despite advertisers’ warm embrace of native advertising and the associated revenue opportunity, publishers need to be cautious about how they sell and produce branded content. It’s very easy for publishers to damage their relationships with advertisers and/or readers through poorly executed native ad campaigns.
During a Q&A session titled “Helping Clients ‘Get It’” held at Content Marketing World last fall, The Atlantic’s VP of marketing Sam Rosen spoke about the careful management of client expectations needed throughout the native ad process. Rosen oversees Atlantic Re:think The Atlantic’s branded content studio, and explains that it’s important to help advertisers understand the realistic objectives of native advertising, educate them on the creative process, and define the rules of engagement to ensure a client has a pleasant experience and reaps the value of native.
Below are three techniques Rosen’s team employs to educate advertisers throughout the content marketing process.
1. Set clear expectations at the beginning and at the end of the project. Atlantic Re:think does this through carefully crafted pre-sale and post-sale documents which it provides to new clients. “Our pre-sale document explains The Atlantic’s voice, tone, and sensibility. We explain in that document that if your brand is too heavily mentioned in the piece, we may not run it. We try to set expectations there, but after we sell through a program, we have a guide called ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting Content’ and that is much more in-depth. It walks through the entire process, from what native advertising and branded content is to all of the things that could go wrong in the process. We walk them through that on our kick-off calls to make them totally aware.”
2. Prepare clients for an iterative creative process. Rosen said that advertisers have come to expect completely clean, ready-to-go copy from a creative agency, but creating content marketing that will live within a respected brand like The Atlantic requires a different process. To ensure that the content strikes the right chord with readers and meets the client’s needs requires multiple iterations and greater collaboration between the advertiser and content creators. “It’s a very hands-on process where not everything we send them is going to be perfect,” said Rosen. “We try to set their expectations for the end product very high but lower for the process itself.”
3. Draw a hard editorial line and be willing to stop the project if the advertiser crosses that line. If a client cannot understand the value of non-promotional content marketing, even after guiding them through the process, Rosen says publishers must be prepared to let the client go. “I have had clients who have not gotten it, and that’s tough. . . If it’s not working we’ll have to have a tough conversation with the client or we’ll pull [the campaign].”
Rosen gave an example of a project he worked on with a pharmaceutical company. The company’s PR agency wrote several pieces that advocated a contentious position about a very controversial drug. “I personally crossed out 75% of the content and we went back to them and said we couldn’t run it. They said we had to run it. We had to list our concerns, rewrite some of it, and they rewrote some of it, to get the content to a point where it would be fine to publish.”
For more insight on cultivating your native advertising business, check out the Publishing Executive Live: Native Advertising Summit.